How to Read Music for the Marching Snare Drum

Updated March 23, 2017

A snare drum can be part of a larger drum set, but it can be used as a stand-alone instrument in a marching band. The snare drum is an important drum in any musical setting. The snare drum, so called because of the snares that reverberate to give the drum its unique sound, is a small, round drum with steel or wood sides. When used as a marching band instrument, the snare drum has its own musical notation and unique exercises.

Snare drum music is written on a traditional music staff. The music staff has five lines and four spaces. The snare drum is indicated by placing a line note on the third line of that staff (or stave)

Read snare drum rhythm the same way you read traditional music notation. There are eighth notes, sixteenth notes, and crotchets. You don't have sharp or flat notes in marching band drum music. Drum music doesn't indicate pitch and tone.

Understand cross-sticking notation. When a small x is placed in the space occupied by the circle of a note, this indicates to use the cross-stick playing method. Cross-sticking is when the drummer crosses one hand over the other to play the snare drum. This produces a specific effect and should be followed.

R and L notated under a note indicates right or left hand. A caret with the narrow point facing right and placed above a note dictates to play that particular beat with more accent.

Drum rolls for snare marching band are indicated by notes placed on other lines and spaces on the music staff and set in quicker note patterns (sixteenth notes), ending on a crotchet.

Things You'll Need

  • Snare drum
  • Drum sticks
  • Snare drum music or exercise charts
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About the Author

Carl Hose is the author of the anthology "Dead Horizon" and the the zombie novella "Dead Rising." His work has appeared in "Cold Storage," "Butcher Knives and Body Counts," "Writer's Journal," and "Lighthouse Digest.". He is editor of the "Dark Light" anthology to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities.